Biblical Quilt Patterns
Bible stories and religious symbols have inspired artists in all media through the ages. Many of the 19th century quilters knew few other stories than those they heard in church and at the family Bible reading. Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, and other famous biblical tales are the subjects of a number of quilts. Some have sober designs, others are lighthearted, in the manner of colourful illustrations for children’s Bible stories.
In EarlyAmerican homes, reading material was limited, but the one book that could usually be found was the Bible. Bible stories wee told to children from their earliest years, and Biblical names were very much a part of everyday life. As the variety of quilt patterns proliferated, it was natural that many of them should take on names with religious significance.
Among the earliest of these patterns was the Star of Bethlehem, a large and showy arrangement of 45º diamonds. Others were simpler block designs such as Jacob’s Ladder, Crown of Thorns, and Hossanah, or The Palms. The favourite appliqué design – in all its many variations – was Rose of Sharon. These Bible-inspired patterns are no less popular today and are often incorporated into presentation quilts for ministers or banners for churches, as well as into family album quilts.
Aside from the quilts that illustrate Bible stories, there are many other quilts with religious and moral themes. Some have verses or sayings in either pieced or appliqué letters. They are almost certainly designed by the makers and created with endless loving labor, probably in many cases for a young person going out into the world for the first time and presumably needing this moral encoragement.
There has been at least one very good book devoted to them, “Creative American Quilting Inspired by the Bible”, by Murwin & Payne (1982), unfortunatelly now out of print, but possibly available in libraries and Amazon website.